Paschaltide 2007: May 2007 Archives

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Alleluia!
Today the Spirit of the Lord has invaded the cosmos and filled it!
Life spills out of the Cenacle
and, like a torrent of wine,
courses through the streets of Jerusalem.
God arises and His enemies are scattered;
those that hate Him flee before his face,
and those that love Him sing: Alleluia!

Today He who came down to see Babel’s tower
and confused the speech of the proud
visits the Upper Room.
He unties the tongues of the humble
and unites into one holy people those long divided by sin.
Amazed at what she sees and hears,
the Church intones her birthday song: Alleluia!

Today He who on Sinai descended in fire,
causing rocks to quake and peaks to pale,
descends upon Jerusalem;
tongues of fire dance over the heads of those
who, cloistered in the Cenacle, waited to meet their God
and at His coming, they cry out: Alleluia.

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Saturday of the Seventh Week of Paschaltide

Acts 28:16–20, 30_31
Psalm 10:4, 5 and 7 (R. 7b)
John 21: 20–25

The Forty–Ninth Day of The Pentecost

We have come to the 49th day of The Pentecost! We have come to the close of Paschaltide, to the end of the Acts of the Apostles, and to end of the Gospel according to Saint John. These days have been but One Day: the Day which the Lord has made (cf. Ps 117:24). The past 49 days have been the Church’s yearly spatium laetissimum, her “space of surpassing joy.”

Conversion

The prayers of today’s Mass make it very clear that we cannot close Paschaltide without making a firm resolution to persevere in the grace of conversion and in newness of life. Today’s Collect already speaks of the paschal festivals as something in the past; at the same time it makes them the fulcrum of an effective conversion of life. If by the grace of Christ, we have indeed celebrated Paschaltide worthily, then certain things have changed in our lives, and must continue to change.

Grant, we beseech you, Almighty God,
that, having celebrated these paschal festivals,
we may, by your gracious gift,
hold fast to them in our conduct and in our life.

The Holy Spirit and the Forgiveness of Sins

The Prayer Over the Oblations calls the Holy Spirit “the forgiveness of all sins.” To stand in need of forgiveness is to stand in need of the Holy Spirit.

Lord, may your Holy Spirit, by his coming,
prepare our minds for these divine sacraments,
since he himself is the forgiveness of all sins.

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Fifth Thursday of Paschaltide

Acts 15:7-21
Psalm 95: 1-2a, 2b-3, 10
John 15:9-11

O God whose grace makes just men out of wicked ones,
and blessed men out of wretched ones,
be present to your works,
be present by your gifts,
so that those made just by faith,
may not lack the strength of perseverance.

The First Council

In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles we find ourselves present at the very first Council of the Church, the Council of Jerusalem. Saint Luke tells us that “there was much debate” (Ac 15:7). “And after there had been much debate, Peter rose” (Ac 15:7) and spoke. “Peter rose,” says the text; he emerges from the body of “the church and the apostles and the elders” (Ac 15:4), invested with a unique grace. He speaks in the midst of the Church even as he spoke on the day of his confession of faith, saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). The core of Peter’s teaching is this: that the grace of Christ is all-sufficient for the Gentiles as for the Jews. The voice of Peter announces the faith of the Church: “We believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Ac 15:11).

The Grace of Christ

The little word” grace,” so rich in meaning, links the first reading to today’s marvelous Collect. Translated literally, the Collect has us pray: “O God whose grace makes just men out of wicked ones, and blessed men out of wretched ones, be present to your works, be present by your gifts, so that those made just by faith, may not lack the strength of perseverance.”

Adjusted by Grace

Amazing grace indeed, the grace that takes a wicked individual, one profoundly maladjusted to the designs of God, to adjust him to the glorious will of God for his wholeness, for his holiness! The just man is one rightly fitted to the plan of God. The just one stands in correspondence to “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9).

Blessed

The second phrase takes this even further. The grace of God, it says, “makes blessed men out of wretched ones.” The Latin word for wretch is miser, giving us our English miser, the original meaning of which was a profoundly unhappy person. The grace of God takes miserable, unhappy wretches and makes them blessedly happy. This is no mere fluctuation on the emotional thermometer. This is not about going from “I feel wretched” to “I feel happy.” The change wrought by grace is inward and real. It is what Saint Paul calls “being qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col 1:12). “I have told you this,” says Jesus in today’s gospel, “that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (Jn 15:11).

Adesto

The Collect goes on to ask God not once, but twice, to be present to his works, to be present by his gifts. Adesto operibus tuis, adesto muneribus. The rhythmic repetition of adesto — be present — gives the Collect a tone of urgency. “Be present to your works, be present by your gifts.” I know of no other Collect where this particular, insistent pattern is found. Why is the petition so urgent? The Collect gives the answer: “so that those made just by faith may not lack the strength of perseverance.” The grace that falls upon one rotten to the core to make him just, the grace that surprises a miserable wretch with a joy that is nothing less than divine, is a humble grace. It does not impose itself; it waits always to be received. “The strength of perseverance” is an abiding openness, an expectant readiness, it is the position of one who, at every moment, raises empty hands to God.

Silence

There are moments in life when “the strength of perseverance” can be expressed only in silence. Today’s passage from the Acts of the Apostles alludes twice to the silence of the Church. “And all the multitude kept silence” (Ac 15:12); and again the text says, “And after they kept silent, James spoke” (Ac 15:13). In some mysterious way perseverance in grace is linked to perseverance in silence, perseverance in the silence that is openness to the Word, perseverance in the silence that promises the joy of Christ and allows us to taste it even now.

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Fifth Wednesday of Paschaltide

Acts 15:1-6
Psalm 121: 1-2, 3-4ab, 4cd-5
John 15:1-8

Repetition

Today’s Gospel of the vine and the branches recurs frequently in the Sacred Liturgy. I have no difficulty whatsoever in the repetition of the same texts. Repetition is integral to the pedagogy of the Church. Anthropologists tell us that ritual is all about doing the same things, in the same way, at the same time, over and over again. Culture flourishes where the same stories are repeated over and over again in the same way. From the point of view of the human sciences, repetition, not variety, is the ground of culture. From the Catholic point of view, it is outward repetition that makes inward change — conversion — possible. It is sameness that makes the difference. It is by hearing the same Word repeated in the same way that our hardened hearts are touched and, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, pierced and opened to holiness.

Always New

Though we may, from time to time, read the same text, the Gospel remains always new. Every time the holy Gospel is proclaimed, the voice of the risen Christ resounds in the Church. The Gospel is a sacrament of Christ’s abiding presence. The Church has always been conscious of this mystery. She has, over the centuries, surrounded the Book of the Gospels and the proclamation of the liturgical Gospel with marks of solemnity and of joy. Unlike other books, the Book of the Gospels may be placed upon the altar. In the Corpus Christi procession in some places, the Book of the Gospels is carried by a deacon, under the canopy with the Blessed Sacrament, to signify that the same Christ, who speaks in the Gospel, gives himself as food in the Eucharist.

Christ the Energetic Word

No one, I think, has better expressed this profoundly Catholic sense of the reality underlying the Gospel than the English writer, Evelyn Underhill. “The reading of the liturgic Gospel,” she writes, “is something more than a mere instruction of the faithful. It is a vital moment in the sacred action of the Church. In it Christ the Energetic Word speaks and acts. The ceremonial and reverence with which all the ancient rites surround it, the psalm of joy with which it was welcomed, the Alleluia which announced the Divine presence — also the sacred character which the Eastern Church still ascribes to the Book of the Gospels, and the deep awe with which its entrance is received — may serve to remind us that the words and deeds, indeed the very life of the Incarnate Logos, are themselves sacramental impartings of the Infinite God to man, and the proper causes of his adoring gratitude and joy” (The Mystery of Sacrifice, 9-10).

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Fifth Tuesday of Paschaltide

Acts 14:19-28
Psalm 144:10-11, 12-13ab, 21
John 14:27-31a

My Peace I Give to You

Today’s Gospel gives us the very words of Christ that are repeated in every Mass. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (Jn 14:27). “Lord, Jesus Christ, who said to your apostles, Peace I leave you, my peace I give you, look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will. Who live and reign forever and ever.” This prayer for peace, addressed to our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, is familiar to all of us. We have heard it hundreds of times.

Prayer Reposes on the Words of Christ

The prayer begins by repeating to Christ the words of Christ. Our Lord’s own words are the foundation and support of our petition. The basis of our prayer is not in something we have conjured up; it is in those solemn words of Christ uttered in the Upper Room on the night before His Passion. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (Jn 14:27). This is a particular application of one of the universal laws of prayer: prayer begins not with our word addressed to God, but with the Word of God addressed to us.

The Faith of So Great a Cloud of Witnesses

After recalling the words of Christ, the prayer asks Him to turn His gaze from our sins and to fix it, instead, upon the faith of his Church. No matter what the failings, weaknesses, and even betrayals of individual members of the Church may be, the faith of the Church, the Bride of Christ, remains virginal, shining, and indomitable. The faith of the Church encompasses and perfects the faith of Abel, of Enoch, of Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets (cf. Heb 11:1-32). The faith of the Church is the faith of the Mother of God, and of the Apostles. It is the faith of the martyrs and of the saints of every age.

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There is comfort in knowing that when our own faith is weak and faltering, we can take refuge in the faith of “so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1). This is the secret of that strong, efficacious prayer recommended by Christ in the gospel. “I say to you, if two or three agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (Mt 18:19). It is helpful, even necessary at times, to lean upon the faith of another in our prayer. It is good to seek the intercession of the saints, good to ask for the prayer of the Church. In the Third Eucharistic Prayer the Church commemorates the saints "whose intercession in Your presence is our unfailing pledge of help.”

Does this make our own prayer less effective or less pleasing to God? On the contrary, the poverty and truth of such a prayer pleases the Lord who takes pity on the lowly and the weak. It makes our prayer resemble that of the father who prayed for his child, saying, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mk 9:24).

Peace: A Gift from Above

Our petition, then, will rest upon a secure foundation: the words of Christ himself, and the faith of Christ’s Bride, the Church. The request itself is direct and unadorned: “Graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will.” We are not asking here for a sentimental kind of peace nor are we asking to experience a feeling. Peace is not a feeling. Feelings are subjective; they originate within ourselves. The peace and unity for which we pray originate not in man, but in God. Peace and unity descend from above, “coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Jas 1:17).

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Fifth Monday of Paschaltide

Acts 14:5–18
Psalm 113B:1–2, 3–4, 15–16 (R.1ab)
John 14:21–26

Grateful to Saint Jude

We are grateful to the Apostle Saint Jude for the marvelous dialogue recounted in today’s Gospel. Our Lord reveals what it means to love Him and to be loved by Him. He declares that anyone who loves Him will be loved by the Father. He promises to love the one who loves him and to manifest Himself to him. “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (Jn 14:21).

The Way of Love

Saint Jude doesn’t immediately grasp what Our Lord is saying. He cannot conceive of a way of knowing Christ apart from the obvious way given to all. Jude seems to think that it is enough to observe Jesus: something that everyone can do. That there should be a higher way of knowing, a more intimate way, the way of love, completely eludes him. “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” (Jn 14:22).

The Divine Indwelling

Our Lord explains that the manifestation of Himself to His disciples will be inseparable from His Father’s love for them. He promises a mysterious indwelling: “We will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14:23). He declares that anyone who loves Him will hold fast to His words. Those who let go of his words, those who fail to store them up in their hearts, will not enjoy the manifestation reserved to His friends. They will remain strangers to the joy of the indwelling of the Father and the Son.

Friends of the Sacred Heart

How can we not relate this Gospel to the tender love Our Lord revealed in manifesting Himself to the friends of His Sacred Heart over the centuries. To each one of them He said in a unique way, “Behold, I love you and manifest Myself to you, even as I promised.”

I am thinking above all of the Virgin Mother beneath whose own Pure Heart His Sacred Heart of flesh first began to beat. I am thinking of Saint John the Beloved Disciple who, inflamed by his experience of the Heart of Jesus, was compelled to write: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it” (1 Jn1:1–2).

I am thinking of Saint Bernard, Saint Gertrude, Saint Mechthilde, Saint Lutgarde, and Saint Bonaventure. I am thinking of Saint Margaret Mary and of Saint Claude la Colombière, of Mother Marie Adèle Garnier of Tyburn, Mother Clelia Merloni, and Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil–Martiny; of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, and of Blessed Marie–Joseph Cassant. For each one of these men and women Our Lord fulfilled the promise he makes in today’s Gospel: “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (Jn 14:21).

A Gift Without Price

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, before being a gift of ours offered to Christ is a gift that He offers us. “If you but knew the gift of God!” (Jn 4:10). This is the clear teaching of Pope Pius XII in Haurietis Aquas: “We are perfectly justified in seeing in this same devotion . . . a gift without price which our divine Saviour . . . imparted to the Church, His mystical Spouse in recent centuries when she had to endure such trials and surmount so many difficulties” (HA, art. 2).

The Holy Spirit, First Gift of the Heart of Christ

For Pope Pius XII, the Holy Spirit is the first Gift from the Heart of the risen Christ. This too is announced in today’s Gospel: “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (Jn 14:26). The work of the Holy Spirit is threefold. (1) The Holy Spirit is our Advocate with the Father, “interceding for us with sighs too deeps for words” because “we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Rom 8:26). (2) The Holy Spirit is sent to teach us all things, that is, to make clear for us “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8). (3) The Holy Spirit is sent to quicken the memory of the Church, to bring to remembrance all that Christ said, lest any word of His be neglected or forgotten.

Advocate, Teacher, and Prompter

The Holy Spirit is our Advocate, our Teacher, and our Prompter. As Advocate, the Holy Spirit aligns us with the prayer of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the Father; “the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:27), that is, according to the Heart of Christ. As Teacher, the Holy Spirit gives us “the power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3:18); in a word, the Holy Spirit teaches us the Heart of Christ. As Prompter, the Holy Spirit calls to mind the words by which Christ communicates to us all “the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3) hidden in His Sacred Heart.

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On John 15:1–8

The Source of All Fecundity

Our Lord, in the fifteenth chapter of Saint John, raises us straightaway to the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the source of all fecundity. Consider the very first verse: ”I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser” (Jn 15:1). When Jesus says, — “I am . . . and my Father is,” He opens for us a door into His life with the Father in the Holy Spirit.

“Knock,” He says, “and the door will be opened to you; to him who knocks it will be opened” (Lk 11:9-10). Shall we stand on the threshold and peer in from the outside, or shall we heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit and cross the threshold of the banqueting house where the wine is already poured out? Let us go in to the Son, and with the Son and through Him, let us go in to the Father, drawn on by the Holy Spirit. “He has brought me to the banqueting house,” says the bride of the Canticle, “and His banner over me was love” (Ct 2:4).

Christ the True Vine

“I am the true vine” (Jn 15:1). Christ does not say, “I am like the vine.” The vine, rather, is like Christ. In Christ, the vine finds its perfection. The vine is like Christ, but Christ is the true vine, just as He is the true bread, sustaining us with eternal life; the true water springing up into eternal life; the true door opening onto the pastures of eternal life; the true Shepherd giving His life for the sheep of His flock that they may have eternal life. Today, He reveals Himself to us as the true vine imparting life to every branch and tendril, to every part of Himself.

The Father is the Vinedresser

Christ reveals the Father to us as the vinedresser (Jn 15:1). The prophets had already spoken of the God of Israel as the planter and keeper of the vine. Our Lord would have us understand that the Father is more than the One who tends the vine. The Father is the origin of its life, giving it growth from within. The Father fosters growth from within by pruning from without.

“Every branch in me that bears no fruit He cuts away and every branch that does bear fruit He purifies” (Jn 15:2). We should expect to be pruned. How are we to “bear fruit, fruit that will last” (Jn 15:16), unless we submit to the Father’s pruning? If we are to be fruitful, then everything withered, everything sterile, everything in the way of the expansion of divine life, every impediment to fecundity, in us must be pruned.

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Pruning the Branches

Pruning takes place in a variety of ways. It is inevitable and it is not without pain. For some the pruning takes place in the experience of physical suffering, for others in the crucible of emotional pain or spiritual desolation. In the lives of some, the pruning is subtle and protracted; in the lives of others, it is intense and brief.

Faith

There are persons for whom pruning takes the form of relentless doubts, of temptations against the Truth, and of rebellion against God. In these the Father may be fashioning a strong and shining Faith, capable of withstanding every assault.

Hope

There are others for whom pruning takes the form of an apparent loss of meaning, with violent temptations to discouragement leading at times to the edge of despair. Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face experienced this. In souls tormented by temptations to despair, the Father may be fashioning an immense and glorious hope, capable of boundless confidence and of heroic surrender.

Charity

In still other persons, the pruning knife is applied to the most intimate impulses, to the desire to love and to be loved. The experience of rejection, of sweet loves turned bitter, of desires that rage within and batter the heart, may in fact lead to a purification of the passions, rendering the soul capable of accommodating the blazing fire of divine charity. In these, the Father may be fashioning true lovers, passionate lovers, inflamed with the Holy Spirit.

Fruitful Suffering

The cutting edge of the pruning knife is suffering and yet, the hand which holds the knife is the hand of Infinite Love. Suffering is not good; it is the effect of sin. And yet, with an indescribable tenderness, the Father makes use of it in such a way as to make us bear abundant fruit. How often lives of great suffering are lives of immense fruitfulness!

Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles

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John 14:6-14
Psalm 18:2-5
1 Corinthians 15:1-8


Today’s Antiphons in the Divine Office

There is no doubt that the antiphons given in the Divine Office for this feast of Saints Philip and James are among the most beautiful of the Paschaltide liturgy. The Church takes the dialogue of the Gospel and, with an artistry inspired by the Holy Spirit, presents it anew in a series of antiphons interwoven with alleluias:

The first antiphon is Philip’s bold request: “Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us, alleluia” (Jn 14:8). Philip’s prayer echoes that of Moses in the book of Exodus: “I pray thee, show me thy glory” (Ex 33:18).

The second antiphon is Our Lord’s astonishing reply. He presents Himself to Philip as the icon of the Father: “Philip, he who sees Me sees also My Father, alleluia” (Jn 14:9).

The third antiphon is a poignant complaint of the Heart of Christ. It is addressed not to Philip alone, but also to each of us: “Have I been so long a time with you, and you have not known Me? Philip, he who sees Me sees also My Father, alleluia” (Jn 14:9).

The fourth antiphon is a gentle reproach; it ends nonetheless in a triple alleluia. The reproach becomes a promise full of hope: “If you had known me, you would also have known My Father. And henceforth you do know Him, and you have seen Him, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” (Jn 14:7).

The fifth antiphon is an appeal to love. Like the fourth it ends in a triple alleluia: “If you love Me, keep my commandments, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” (Jn 14:15).

Benedictus Antiphon

There are two more antiphons to be considered. At the Benedictus it is Our Lord himself who sings in the midst of His Church: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me, alleluia.” The Church cannot but reply: “Yes, Lord, you are the way, and the truth, and the life. Behold, I come to the Father through You.” There is no better preparation for today’s Eucharist. The Eucharist is the Church coming to the Father through the Son, united to Him as His Body and His Bride.

Magnificat Antiphon

At Vespers the Magnificat will be framed by the words of the Lord: “Let not your heart be troubled or afraid. You believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house there are many mansions, alleluia, alleluia” (Jn 14:1–2). These are words of comfort, words of hope for every situation of fading light and for those moments when darkness descends over the human heart.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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